Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 11/12

WHAT'S WRONG WITH the Cougar offense? I'm no coach, but it doesn't take a genius to spot breakdowns in the offensive line. That's the core problem. And it leads to what I think is a crippling issue: The team's two biggest playmakers -- Devard Darling and Sammy Moore -- aren't getting the ball.

Take away his work on special teams, and you'd hardly know Moore was in the starting line up. In the last six games combined, he's caught all of five balls.

Darling's numbers are better, but for a talent of his caliber, they're actually pitiful. In four of the last six games he's had only two touches per outing -- and that includes the two passes he dropped against UCLA. Even counting his seven-reception day at USC, he's averaging just 3.6 catches per game over the last six.

By contrast, consider that WSU's third-most dangerous playmaker, running back Jonathan Smith, touched the pigskin 40 times in the UCLA game alone. That's right. Of WSU's 71 plays from scrimmage against the Bruins, he touched the swine a remarkable 40 times. I know, I know, it's not fair to compare backs and receivers, but you get my point.

And it's not like the Cougs aren't putting the ball in the air. Matt Kegel, despite missing three quarters of play last week, has thrown for 2,617 yards this season, just 28 hashes behind league leader Cody Pickett.

Part of the issue, of course, is that opposing Ds know of the talent in Darling and Moore and are doing all they can to jam them at the line and otherwise take them out of the action.

So I contend it's high time the Cougars mix things up by taking a page from the Reggie Williams story. I'd line Darling and Moore up all over the field -- wide, in the slot, at tight end, the backfield. You name it. I'd put them in frequent motion and also overdose on curls and hitches. Anything to keep defenses off balance in guarding them.

A four-yard pass isn't the prettiest thing in town, but if you put the ball in the right hands enough times, they're going to break off some big gains.

WHILE ON THE SUBJECT of the right hands in the right places, get this: WSU is tied with Texas for most sacks in the nation over the last four seasons. It's true. The Cougs and Longhorns have each recorded a whopping 154 QB dumpings since 2000. With 36 sacks so far this year, the Cougars lead the Pac-10. D.D. Acholonu, the pride of Inglemoor High just north of Seattle, is setting the pace with 8.5. Going back to 1999, the Cougars rank third nationally behind Oklahoma and Kansas State for most interceptions. With six picks each this season, Cougar seniors Erik Coleman and Jason David are tied for fourth-most nationally. Not surprisingly, Coleman, who also leads the Cougars in total tackles, is on the watch list for Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the year honors, and David is one of 12 semi-finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's premier DB.

And speaking of turnovers, here's a juicy tidbit to ponder. Of the 38 interceptions and fumbles the Cougar D has generated so far this season, 21 of them have directly or indirectly resulted in points for the Cougars --- 126 to be exact.

BRING ON THE DEVILS: Saturday's game with ASU still doesn't have a betting line because of the uncertainty over Kegel's health. Game time is set for 12:30 PT, with live coverage on ABC. WSU has won the last two meetings between the clubs. Last year both teams were ranked in the top 20 -- the Cougars No. 8, as they are again today. The Cougs won 44-22 on the strength of three TD passes by Jason Gesser and a defense that allowed just 37 yards rushing, forced four turnovers and posted six sacks.

JONATHAN SMITH needs to have average 112 yards per game in the final two regular season contests and bowl game to join WSU's 1,000-rushing yards-in-a-season clubs. With 130 last week against UCLA, he now has 665 on the year -- fourth-most in the Pac-10. His 215 all-purpose yards against the Bruins marked the second time he's cracked 200 in a single game this season. Only two other Cougars -- both legendary -- can lay claim to that feat in one season: Steve Broussard in 1989 and Rueben Mayes in 1984.

THE APPLE CUP game on Nov. 22 in Seattle will be televised live by Fox Sports Net. Kickoff is set for 3:30 PT.

The night before the game, the King County Cougar Club will be hosting the always-fun Apple Cup Rally, replete with great food and entertainment. Join Butch, the Band and a host of Cougar celebrities.  Plus, the Bookie will be there to get you outfitted for the holidays. The event is at Pier 66 in downtown Seattle at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Also bid on tons of great Cougar memorabilia. Time is 7 pm to midnight. Fans of all ages are welcome. Adult tickets are $45 ($50 at the door). Kids 6 to 15 are $15 and the very wee ones are free. For more information or to purchase tickets call 206-448-1335 or e-mail kooy@wsuwest.edu.


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